Fatima Gonzalez, a seventh grade student from Ánimo Jefferson Charter Middle School, has found comfort in writing about her experiences. This spring, Ánimo Voices' sixth annual Writing and Art competition gave Gonzalez a platform for her voice through her written piece, ‘A Feeling That Felt Like Freedom.’
Gonzalez is thankful for the guidance of her teacher Jeremy Farkas and the support of her peers. We spoke with Gonzalez to talk about her writing life, what made her start writing at such a young age, and what she's learned throughout this process.
Q: What does the competition's "About Joy" theme mean to you?
A: Joy isn't something I experience a lot. When my brother passed away, I really needed joy. Joy to me is when you find something that makes you feel happy, whether for a long or short time. I decided to write about something that had happened because I didn't know how to describe it. I had a difficult time trying to find inspiration. So, I wrote about when my brother passed away and how the SRLA (Students Run L.A.) team, or running, helped me. I didn’t completely overcome it, but it helped me get through a hard time.
When did you learn you won first place in the middle school writing competition?
When I got to school, I was with my friends and Mr. Farkas. He asked me to check my email. At first, I thought I was in trouble. I checked, saw that I won, and was so happy for myself. I immediately told my best friend. My parents thought it was a very big accomplishment. My brother (previously) joined Ánimo Voices but didn't think I could win because he didn't win, but I won.
When did you first start writing?
I first started writing when I was about seven. I had a wild imagination as a kid, and I still do. I used to write short stories; other students would borrow and read my stories. That's really how my writing grew. It just started becoming a part of me.
What convinced you to participate in the competition?
I started writing a novel in Mr. Farkas' English composition class, and he was the one to tell me my story was good and try out Ánimo Voices. He just kept encouraging me, so I took it and decided to do the competition.
How do you work around creative blocks?
Most of the time, I take hobbies that I do–I have many– and imagine it going wrong. I use my imagination or like writing down ideas. I like to picture how those ideas would work. If I don't like [the result], I'll move on to a different idea. I enjoy working where there's a lot of noise, so I can imagine things happening. Then [creativity] just strikes me.
Is there anyone you would like to thank?
I want to thank the kid in my elementary school who used to write comic books, and I was inspired to make my own comic books. That evolved into me doing more serious writing. I will also thank Mr. Farkas and my friend Jody because they're the people that pushed me the hardest to my limits to make sure I did this right.